KALAMAZOO, MI—One year after announcing a collaborative effort with Grand Rapids Community College and West Michigan manufacturers, the Advance Manufacturing Partnership lab at Western Michigan University opened its doors here last week for industry leaders to have a first look at the new 15,000-square-foot instructional facility.

The lab occupies the first two floors of WMU's downtown Grand Rapids location, and serves as a program to cultivate the next generation of engineers, designers and other skilled individuals to serve the manufacturing industry.

"This cutting-edge instructional laboratory has been designed to meet the demands identified by manufacturing leaders—not only locally, but around the globe—to educate the 21st century advanced manufacturing workforce," says WMU President Edward Montgomery. "WMU is excited to bring this type of experiential learning to the region."

The lab combines prototyping, training and small-scale manufacturing with the opportunity for individuals to earn college credits to be used toward a degree or certification. The facility includes 3D printers and scanners, a CAD/CAM lab, plasma cutter, laser cutter, welding station, metrology equipment and prototyping tools.

"The AMP lab is an excellent example of how communities grow stronger when people come together," notes GRCC President Bill Pink. "We're [here] to give residents skills they need for great jobs as well as their first steps in higher education and pursuit of lifelong learning."

Earlier this month, GRCC began using the space three days a week for its AMP program cohorts. In January, WMU will offer courses for a certificate program in integrated design and manufacturing. In addition, manufacturing engineering technology, engineering design technology and engineering management technology courses will be offered at the facility for students enrolled in WMU's ABET-accredited 4-year engineering technology degree program.

"At full strength, the space will be used for six to eight WMU undergraduate courses a semester with class sizes of 16 to 24," says Dr. Steven Butt, WMU Department of Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engineering and Engineering Management chair and professor. "GRCC will also be offering associate degrees and manufacturing courses.  In addition to college courses, workshops, specialized trainings, product design and manufacturing consulting will occur in the space."

The $2.7 million lab development and the equipment it houses were partially funded through private investment efforts and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Opportunities exist for the facility to be used as a makerspace for entrepreneurs needing manufacturing assistance.